DIY Plant Labels

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.” -Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been looking for some plant labels that add an extra pop to my vegetable and herb raised beds. I do not like to spend money and would much rather reuse, recycle, or DIY my own. Of course I checked out Pinterest and saw some chalk painted painter-stir sticks that I fell in love with. As I thought about their size and shape a bit more, I decided I liked a square shaped rod if I could find something….but I would use the paint sticks if they were cheaper. I had already decided NOT to use a chalk paint since I did not have it on hand, and I saw no need to break the piggy bank just for plant labels, no matter how cool they looked. I already had some matte black acrylic paint that would do but I ended up doing something different. Now, I just needed a white pen that would not wash off in the weather.

20190429_171156On my next run to Walmart, I found a white paint pen that looked promising for $2.24.

Also, I found some nice 5 ft tomato stakes at $3.26 for a 4-pack. I figured I could cut each one into foot long sections, making 20 markers, and I did just that.

But then I thought about doing the Shou Sugi Ban burn method instead of painting them black, which would seal the wood while keeping paint out of the garden. A nice trade. I used my weed torch to burn the wood and was surprised how easy it was. Watch out…. I have some more plans for the Shou Sugi Ban.

20190429_135715Next, I wrote my plant names using the white paint pen. I practiced first, to find the lettering I wanted. I went with block lettering.

What do you think? I really like how they turned out.

20190429_135325

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The Simplest Raised Garden Bed you can Build Yourself

I am not handy with tools, so remember, if I can do this, you can too. All you need is a drill, some drill bits, and 3” outdoor screws.

Go to your closest lumber store and purchase 2 boards and ask them to cut them for you. I got mine at Lowe’s and they did not charge extra for cutting them. I bought the cheapest wood I could find and because this is for vegetable gardening, I did not want treated lumber. 2×12 by 12 foot long. If you have them cut 4 feet off each board, you will now have 2 – 8 ft boards and 2 – 4 ft boards which is perfect for an 8×4’ garden bed! If you go online, you could probably find the price for lumber in your area, I think it cost me about $35 for 1 bed. I was so worried that the boards would eventually bow and warp that I also purchased 8 – 24” rebars (about $2 each)that I pounded into the dirt about 1 foot below ground level on the outside of the garden raised beds_LIboxes (which left 1 foot showing). They were placed at each corner and two in the middle of each long side, so 8 total rebars for one bed. The reason I left 1 ft showing was for the cold months when I would want to cover the raised bed. As you can see I just eyeballed the spacing and depth. Also, I’ve had these first 2 beds for going on three years now and they haven’t warped at all.

20190217_081126A PVC pipe fits perfect over the 1 ft rebar and I just bend it over to the other side. Super easy to set up and tear down. I used another PVC for the ridge pole and wound some twine around the intersections to hold it in place. Then I got some heavy-ish plastic sheeting to cover it. I gathered and stapled the ends to a 4 ft 2×2 to add some weight so the winds wouldn’t blow it off. And it held up great to 20190421_085833some fairly rough winds and a few inches of snow even! It may not be the prettiest but it got the job done without extensive carpentry skills.

This year, I decided to add two more 8×4’ raised beds, then went on to add a third 8’x4’ and a 4’x4’. The most expensive part is filling it. The least expensive way to fill it is to take a pickup and a tarp and go to the local nursery that sells garden soil by the yard. They will dump ½ yard of it in my pickup bed (on the tarp which I then wrap over the top to keep it from blowing away before I get back home). This is a bit more labor intensive for me instead of buying bags at the big box stores but it is cheaper in the long run. I don’t fill the beds to the brim because every year, I add compost and mulches that get worked in.

Materials I used for a basic raised bed:

  • 3” outdoor screws, 4 on each corner, 16 total
  • Small drill bit to pre-drill each hole
  • Ryobi Battery-powered drill

Happy gardening!

“Agriculture… is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.”  -Thomas Jefferson

Home cooking? But our Grandma’s grew up in the Industrial Age…

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Truthfully, it was our Great Grandmothers and Great Great Grandmothers, that grew up in the Industrial Age, depending on your age. During this time, women were usually the preparers of food for the family depending on affluence. Most of our grandparents grew up in the midst of mass manufacturing of food in cans and boxes and large cattle feedlots.  Not quite the picture of lush green rolling pastoral hills dotted with healthy cows we see in TV advertisements, although smaller farmsteads managed to retain some of the older methods. Many urbanites have not had easy access to real food like their rural counterparts and increasingly became reliant on quick and easy foodstuffs. Even then, processed foods became the new normal everywhere, including rural areas. Therefore, what we have learned in our home environments about food, was the wrong way to find, prepare, and eat it. Now we have to un-do these harmful practices and re-learn or build healthy ones.

The Industrial Revolution (1740-1850) introduced less labor-intensive devices such as the seed drill, iron plow, and threshing machines for farmers. Up until the 1900s draft animals were still being used to work the fields.

20th century farming                                 (Photo used by courtesy of Library of Congress)

The word “tractor” was first used by Hart Parr Company in Iowa, 1900, however, their huge machine was very cost-prohibitive, and few could afford it. But by 1916 there were over 100 different companies building tractors. Ford and International Harvester blew up the market with their price wars driving down prices making them more affordable for traditional farmers.

Before the Industrial Revolution, men and women labored at providing enough food for their families often being limited by climate and local resources. The wealthy could import their foods, but most residents consumed a diet limited to nearby fields and forests. Prior to the 18th century, during Middle Ages, agriculture was performed by many residents (peasants) for a local landowner.

Middle Ages Farming                                  Painting by Henry H. Parker (1858-1930)

The Industrial age contributed to the demise of the feudal system as individual wealth and a middle class developed. Instead of farming the land for someone else, farmers were now working their own land, building their own houses, making their own way in the world. Farmsteads existed in small rural communities which enabled them to barter and trade with their neighbors. This type of reciprocity helped to develop strong bonds within the community as they learned to share in their agricultural successes and failures.  Nutrient dense meats and vegetation were still home grown or locally traded and prepared. Preservation included drying, salting, and fermenting. These methods encompass cooking from “scratch” and define real food prepared and consumed in a homestead/farm environment.

By the middle of the 20th century, for urban Americans, homecooked merely meant cooked at home and little resembled the art of raising, butchering, harvesting, preserving, and serving food from the farm. About this time, food manufacturing and the arrival of fast food restaurants forever changed our relationship with food. Somehow, food was no longer the means for survival and health. Instead, it had become a social event.

1961 advertisingEven today, advertising continues to drive consumerism and dupes’ people into buying non-nutritious garbage. Many Americans now eat out multiple times a week and when they do get a “homecooked meal” it is from a box full of processed, refined, and nutrient-starved items slightly resembling food. Truthfully, if we were to compare a box meal to real, living food that is vividly colored and full of rich flavor, there would be no contest. Real food may be more expensive than processed but it is packed full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes your body craves. And you can grow it in your backyard!                                                                                                               Photo Published in Life magazine, April 14, 1961, Vol. 50 No. 15

Unfortunately, in our culture, real living food is becoming marginalized. Today there are several food movements that we can support to bring back healthier, and closer to home, food resources. Better yet, just start a garden.

I don’t know about you, but I want to invest in real foods and natural, life giving organisms that are crucial for our health. I want to retrieve controls that could threaten ecosystems and strip necessary biodiversity from our environment. What I buy, is what I vote for; I choose to put my money into natural food systems, one without chemicals, preservatives, pesticides and herbicides. I choose to grow my own grocery store, from leafy greens to juicy fruits. And what I can’t grow or raise, I choose to support my local, grass-fed meat farms.

References:

Global Food, Health, and Society. “The Long Lasting Effects of the Industrial Revolution.” October 29, 2018.  http://web.colby.edu/st297-global18/2018/10/29/the-long-lasting-effects-of-the-industrial-revolution/

Hueston W, McLeod A. OVERVIEW OF THE GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEM: CHANGES OVER TIME/SPACE AND LESSONS FOR FUTURE FOOD SAFETY. In: Institute of Medicine (US). Improving Food Safety Through a One Health Approach: Workshop Summary. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012. A5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK114491/

Liebhold, Peter. These tractors show 150 years of farming history. National Museum of American History. March 1, 2018. https://americanhistory.si.edu/tractor

O’Brien, P. (1977). Agriculture and the Industrial Revolution. The Economic History Review, 30(1), new series, 166-181. doi:10.2307/2595506

Sally Edelstein Collage (Feature Illustration). https://www.sallyedelsteincollage.com/content.html?page=6

Smaller, C. (2016). Bayer Tightens Control over the World’s Food Supply. International Institute for Sustainable Development: The Knowledge to Act. https://www.iisd.org/blog/bayer-tightens-control-over-world-s-food-supply